December 2022 newsletter
Larry Parr, El Salvador
Greetings from El Salvador.
One of the lessons that I have learned in mission is the importance of celebrating successes and joys with our partners. Mission is not just working for justice and a more compassionate world; it is also living out the joy of the gospels and sharing life with the people.
Mission is not just about being there for people in the difficult times but also sharing in the successes and happy moments. In the midst of violence, poverty and hardship, celebrations, parties, excursion trips to the beach and other joyful activities help to build community and create an environment of trust.
The end of the year is a very joyous time in El Salvador. Besides all of the Christmas celebrations, many parishes, community groups and programs celebrate all their hard work through the year by having end-of-the-year celebrations.
November also marks the end of the academic year in El Salvador, so it’s a time of graduations. I have accompanied many young people who were so thankful to become the first ones in their families to graduate from high school or college. It is truly a blessing to be able to go to graduations and share in the successes of these young students, who have worked so hard to have opportunities.
A few years ago, I was invited to accompany the family of one of our high-school graduates. The family lives up the mountain and makes a humble living by being caretakers for a coffee plantation. Neither the father nor the mother had the opportunity to go to high school. I remember the look of pride in the father’s face as his son accepted his diploma.
After the graduation, the father invited us to go to the market and have bowls of chicken soup in celebration of the day. It was not a big party, but just the small act of sharing a meal together meant a lot to this family.
November is also the anniversary of the eight martyrs at the Jesuit university in San Salvador. Every year the Salvadoran people remember their lives and struggle for justice. In one way this is a solemn time of remembrance, but it is also a time to celebrate their lives. Young people celebrate their lives with a soccer tournament, create rugs out of colored salt in the streets, and hold a night vigil with music and dancing. The young people honor the martyrs by having fun and continuing to live out their message of peace and justice.
This year’s celebration was even more special because it was the first one since the COVID pandemic that we could meet in person. After two difficult years, the young people could come back together and celebrate those who gave up their lives for justice.
It was so beautiful to see people of all ages come together to share in the joy of resurrection and to see the martyrs live on in the next generations. The occasion was also special for my family because it was the first time our 2-year-old twins, Freddy and Violeta, could share in the experience with us and celebrate the life of the martyrs.
The Salvadoran people have taught me a lot about the importance of joyfully celebrating together and living life to the fullest. It is truly a blessing to able to share in all aspects of life with Salvadoran people and continue to accompany them on their journey toward a more just and compassionate world.
Please consider making a special gift to Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ “Walk With Us” campaign, which raises money for the recruitment, training and ongoing support of all of us lay missioners. We can only “walk with” the people here because you are “walking with” us. Now and through Dec. 31, thanks to matching gifts, every $100 given to the campaign in effect becomes $150. To donate ONLINE, click the “Walk With Us” button below. Thank you so much for your generosity!